20th Party Congress is expected to have major impact on Hong Kong’s future direction

It is safe to deduce that the more firmly the bottom line of “one country” is upheld, the greater room is afforded for Hong Kong to operate under the framework of “two systems”, and vice versa.


September 19, 2022

HONG KONG – The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is scheduled to commence on Oct 16. The Party Congress, a quinquennial assembly of Party representatives from all around the country, has usually set the stage for China’s socioeconomic development in the next five years or beyond.

The upcoming assembly is likely to catch global attention, as has been the case with every previous one, because the future path of the world’s second-largest economy and the major trading partner of some 120 countries naturally has nonnegligible implications for the world.

Moreover, the meeting takes place at a critical time: The United States and its allies are doubling down on their efforts to stop China’s rise in national strength, including stepping up their decoupling drive. Amid increasing uncertainty caused by external factors, China is struggling to maintain meaningful economic growth over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. To be sure, while the Chinese economy is still thriving among the world’s major economies; it is proving to be difficult to keep up the momentum of previous economic upsurges.

As the much-anticipated event is fast approaching, media outlets in Hong Kong enthuse over speculating about the composition of the new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee. Regardless of who assumes the key positions, the central authorities have long established a steady leadership structure. Notably, since the 18th National Congress took place, top leader Xi Jinping has led the entire Chinese population to materialize historic changes and achievements. Besides the lineups of the Politburo and its Standing Committee, another subject that has drawn as much attention from people in Hong Kong is how the decisions adopted in the Party Congress will impact Hong Kong’s future development.

With Beijing having shifted to a more hands-on approach in exercising its comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong, some Hong Kong residents have expressed misgivings that the city might have its high degree of autonomy reduced, with less room to maneuver. This, of course, is a misguided inference as well as an unwarranted concern. In the 19th Party Congress, “upholding the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ and promoting national reunification” was established as part of the 14-point basic policy that underpins the country’s endeavors to uphold and develop Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The 20th Party Congress is likely to reiterate such a notion.

In Hong Kong, the bottom line of “one country” has been made clearer after the promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the implementation of the revamped electoral system, and the risk of the practice of “one country, two systems” going astray has been significantly reduced. This assessment conforms to what top leader Xi said in his speech marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, in which he asserted that “the more firmly the ‘one country’ principle is upheld, the greater strength the ‘two systems’ will be unleashed for the development of the SARs”. It is safe to deduce that the more firmly the bottom line of “one country” is upheld, the greater room is afforded for Hong Kong to operate under the framework of “two systems”, and vice versa.

It is safe to deduce that the more firmly the bottom line of “one country” is upheld, the greater room is afforded for Hong Kong to operate under the framework of “two systems”, and vice versa

It has been 25 years since the reunification, yet not long ago Hong Kong was still embroiled in heated debates about how democratic development should go along with safeguarding national security. It naturally upset the central authorities whenever a new development in the city’s democratic process threatened national security. What happened in the past 10 years was a vivid demonstration of how the social conflicts arising from democratic development in the city have deteriorated to the extent that the “one country” premise was being threatened. This left the central authorities with little choice but to roll out measures to cement the “one country” bottom line.

With the NSL and the revamped electoral system in place, the “one country” premise is consolidated, and Beijing is now at ease to expand the applicability of “two systems”, with the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone being a prominent example. With a primary goal to support Hong Kong’s socioeconomic development, the central government allows the introduction of Hong Kong’s model of social governance in Qianhai, which is a breakthrough. Conceivably, if the central government is convinced that the “one country” premise is now rock-solid; in all likelihood Hong Kong will be given further opportunities to expand the applicability of “two systems” after the 20th Party Congress. In other words, the room for Hong Kong to operate under “two systems” will be further expanded, rather than being reduced.

It is believed that the 20th Party Congress will lay out a national development blueprint that has implications for Hong Kong’s future development. It is safe to reckon that the city’s unique strengths will be further augmented.

The central authorities have always subscribed to the notion that some of Hong Kong’s distinctive strengths are irreplaceable. For instance, Hong Kong is the only region in China that practices common law. This, coupled with the city’s persistent drive to develop international arbitration services over the years, has facilitated the city to become one of the most popular seats of arbitration in the world, with international arbitration made in Hong Kong recognized by more than 140 countries. The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre is the world’s third-most preferred arbitral institution and the most popular one outside Europe. As more and more mainland enterprises go global, Hong Kong’s distinctive advantages are expected to grow further.

Experience shows that the CPC has always come up with some new ideas or theories in each Party Congress to promote breakthroughs in certain areas. Beijing is likely to roll out new opening-up initiatives to counteract the negative effect of Washington’s decoupling and deglobalization drive. Taking into account the hostile geopolitical landscape, amplifying Hong Kong’s traditional strengths along with creating new competitive edges will surely benefit the city, the country and globalization.

Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, previously raised four expectations for Hong Kong, which include the hope of adding new laurels aside from its global standing as an international center for finance, shipping and trade, and further elevating itself into a modern and highly civilized cosmopolitan city. Hong Kong is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the country’s development strategies, embracing a brighter prospect for the city’s socioeconomic development.

The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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